Issue 43.8 is all about you, dear reader, the very people who keep the wheels of South African surfing turning. In this excerpt, designer, illustrator and artist Wonder Meyer talks about her unconventional upbringing and beloved collaborations with her dad and master craftsman, Mikey Meyer.
My mom worked full time as a pharmacist, so dad was at home with me from when I was little. He started out doing ding repairs just after I was born and then moved onto shaping. My childhood memories are filled with running out to the “shaping room” – our shed in the backyard – and eventually there was a well-worn path between the shed and the house.
These memories are still tinged with the smell of resin. Dad converted our garage into a glassing room and the fumes were always creeping out, thick and heavy, but I loved it!
When I was around six, dad did a stint with Jeff Bushman in Hawaii. My mom and I went over to join him and stayed in a tent in a sugar cane field for a few months. My mom and dad had a great time, but it wasn’t always great for me – I remember a lot of centipedes under the tent!
Surfing has always been such an integral part of my dad’s life. Every conversation revolves around surfing; everything is related to surfing, every analogy he uses is based on surfing. My mom surfs as well – she’s really good, actually – so I really had no choice in the matter. My dad could be quite demanding, though. When I first stood up, I stood up goofy but he said, “No, no, we live in J-Bay, you can’t be goofy!” That’s how I became a natural-footer.
I was seven when my parents had this amazing idea to go sailing for three years with two friends. We sailed from Cape Town to St Helena Island, then Brazil, the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and on to French Polynesia. But the guy who owned the yacht was in a hurry to get to New Zealand because his wife was there, so it turned out to be more of a boat delivery than the exploration they had planned. We sailed right past the Galapagos, Tahiti and Bora Bora – we could see them from the boat but this guy insisted on sailing right past!
My parents were gutted, so eventually, we mutinied in the Cook Islands. I went to a local school for a few months and it was awesome. We went to school barefoot, played in rock pools at break time, and hula dancing was part of the curriculum.
We spent some time in New Zealand, then a year in Australia where my dad shaped for Greg Webber and Rod Dahlberg. We pretty much drove across the whole of Australia. Then we went to Indo and Malaysia, and finally back home.
In hindsight, that two-year trip was life-changing. Even at that age, I learned to see the world from a different perspective.
After I finished school I took a gap year to work in a surf shop in Ireland, traveled Europe and Indo a bit, then came back and started freaking out about what to do with my life.
Until then, I’d never done any formal art classes. I’d always drawn, though. I used to line up my teddies and take their portraits, draw my pets, page through National Geographic and draw all the animals. I had no lessons, but I used to buy canvasses and paint, sketch, doodle. I drew on the yacht, in the backseat of the car traversing Australia, everywhere… it was just something I always did.
When I was trying to decide what to study at uni, the only advice my parents gave me was to do the thing that doesn’t feel like work; the kind of thing I like to do in my spare time. Art was the natural fit.
I’m really interested in ephemeral themes, or things that cannot really be expressed in words, using illustration to express these intangible themes. I always use girls and animals and strange landscapes, which I think was inspired by my early travels and being exposed to so many different places. My commercial stuff is far more colourful, less dark and weird.